If you are a hunter/shooter in your 50s or older, chances are you have at least one .22 magnum rifle in your collection. This snappy little cartridge was introduced in 1959 by Winchester as the .22WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire), but was not actually used by the company until 1960, when it chambered its popular Model 61 slide-action rifle for it.
By then, both Smith & Wesson and Ruger had revolvers for the .22 WMR, and Savage’s model 24 had the .22WMR/410 combination rifle. Most rifle and many handgun manufacturers are still making guns chambered for this cartridge.
Several years ago, the .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) was introduced to rival the .22 WMR, but the new cartridge never really was a threat to the .22 WMR’s popularity. Gun dealers will tell you that there was a small rush for the .17 HMR when it was first introduced, but it really did not last that long.
I prefer the .22 WMR, and up until two weeks ago, I had one, a Marlin model 640KD Chuckster. Now, I have two. For a number of years, I have wanted to find a .22 WMR semi-auto rifle to add to my collection. The most popular semi-auto in this caliber right now is still the Ruger 10/22 WMR, which was introduced in 2004 and only lasted a few years before production of the gun was discontinued. Occasionally, you will find them for sale, new and used, as high as $900, and used are never under $600.
But just recently, I found another .22 WMR semi-auto rifle that was produced by Harrington & Richards (H&R) from 1977–1985. It was their model 700. I was cruising the classified ads, and there it was, and quite frankly, I thought it was a typo. But when I looked it up on the Web, I found out that the ad was correct. A quick phone call to its H&R .22 WSMR owner, and I was on my way to Chatham to check it out. My inspection took all of five minutes to say, “I’ll take it.” The cost was under $200, and that included the 3-9 scope and box of ammunition.
What I immediately noticed other than the gun showed very little wear, was its workmanship — real wood one-piece stock, solid-steel rifle barrel with blow-back action, steel 10-shot clip and a decent trigger pull. I only hoped that it shot half as well as it looked, and it did.
That same afternoon, I was up at the gun club’s rifle range, and it was a surprisingly short visit.
Using a solid bench rest position, I fired four rounds at 25 yards, and although it shot slightly right and low, I was able to cover the four-shot group with a nickel. A few clicks of windage and elevation adjustments got everything centered in the bull’s-eye, and I was ready for a .22 WMR small-game hunt, and perhaps a shot at a coyote.
That same afternoon around 5:30 p.m., I set up in a small overgrown juniper patch in the middle of a field where I goose hunted with a wounded rabbit call and a battery-operated motion decoy to try and lure in a coyote. I had seen several of them in September in this field during the early Canada goose season, but this particular evening they were not interested in the distressed rabbit I was imitating.
Two days later, around mid-morning, I headed to a small swamp in northern Saratoga County, where I hunted deer and always saw grouse and squirrels — perfect targets for the H&R. I left with a grouse, squirrel, rabbit and crow.
Before leaving, I returned to the swamp for another hour or so, but the only thing I saw was a pair of hen turkeys. If I had a shotgun with me, I would have added turkey to the day’s harvests.
It was quite a day and a great performance by the .22 WMR. And for the record, I was hunting on a Friday. In New York, crows can only be hunted on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from Sept. 1 to March 31.
As for my final analysis of the .22 WMR H&R Model 700, I am totally pleased with its history, looks and its performance as a plinking, small-game and predator rifle.